Shape of Light

If I can’t get to London by October 14, then please Tate Modern bring the Shape of Light to Tate St Ives.

This is one of those exhibitions I would love to see in person.

Described as the first time the Tate Modern “tells the intertwined stories of photography and abstract art” from the past 100 years, it’s right up my photographic street.

At least on the website there is a short film with Simon Baker, senior curator of international art (photography), talking to Caroline Von Courten, managing editor of Foam Magazine, that provides a snapshot of some of the work.

This includes images from Daisuke Yokota and Maya Rochet who I have mentioned in other posts.

Baker speaks about how abstract painting has influenced abstract photography but, more importantly for me, that it is no longer about painting or photography but simply art, and how the museum itself has changed towards photography.

The glimpse I have seen is intriguing.

Sean O’Hagan’s review in the Guardian reads like a list of some of the most well-known photographic talents from history such as Strand, Stieglitz and Man-Ray (although he does make a point that Berenice Abbott, whose mentor had been Man Ray, has been overlooked). Her scientific photographic work is definitely worth a look – visit Brain Pickings for a short intro.

He concludes that the ghosts of photography’s past could sense the possibilities for photography, not just to record the real but to “transform it into another kind of abstract art” (2018).

However, Laura Cumming, the art critic for the Observer describes the show as an “interminable exhibition” (2018).

In my opinion, her article speaks of her personal bias towards painting as a higher art to photography; which is a shame, as again it seems that in some circles still, photography can not be compared to painting and is simply a rip-off if it tries to do more than reproduce ‘reality’.

Perhaps this is because Cummings needs to have a very distinct meaning for the word abstract, which to me always seems a little odd as abstract surely means to be the opposite of curtailed. She does in fact ask the very question: “What is abstractism?”, and giving a varied answer in relation to paintings but relegating it to technical processes only in photography.

Although her view may be far from my own, she does make one very good point that I agree with.

In her article, she writes: The ideal artist to represent the chemigram would surely have been August Strindberg, writer-painter-photographer, whose attempts to capture the night sky are among the most beautiful abstract images ever made. But he’s not here. (2018)

Strindberg has been a recent inspiration for me, someone I’ve even felt my work can compare to, so her description of his abstract images is reassuring among the negativity towards much of the other work on show.

Perhaps it is more an issue with the curation of the exhibition, but regardless of viewpoints, its still one I hope to see in person.

References

Tate Modern. ‘Shape of Light – 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art’. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/shape-light [accessed May 21, 2018].

Cumming, Laura. 2018. ‘Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art review – interminable’. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/may/06/shape-of-lights-100-years-photography-abstract-art-tate-modern-review [accessed May 21, 2018].

O’Hagan, Sean. 2018. ‘Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art review – an experimental masterclass’. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/apr/30/shape-of-light-100-years-of-photography-and-abstract-art-review-tate-modern-london [accessed May 21, 2018].

Popova, Maria. 2013. ‘Berenice Abbott’s Stunning Vintage Black-and-White Photographs of Scientific Phenomena’. Brain Pickings. Available at: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/12/03/berenice-abbott-documenting-science/ [accessed May 21, 2018]